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Commentary & Opinion
Utah Law Requiring HIV Tests for Convicted Sex Workers, Solicitors Fails to Slow Spread of HIV Because It Is Not Enforced, Editorial Says

May 7, 2008

A Utah state law that requires convicted commercial sex workers and solicitors of commercial sex to be tested for HIV and makes sex work and solicitation a "felony offense for repeat offenders who were aware they had tested positive for HIV" could "deter" sex work, but it is "not happening" because the law is not enforced, a Salt Lake Tribune editorial says (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/5).

The state is one of six in the U.S. in which penalties for the two offenses increase if the convicted person previously tested positive for HIV, according to a 2002 CDC-funded study. A recent review of Utah court records and procedures found inconsistencies in the enforcement of the law. Court dockets and case files indicate that in almost 40% of solicitation and commercial sex work convictions processed in state courts in 2006 and 2007, there is no record of HIV tests being ordered, read by a judge or filed. In addition, even if test results are successfully transferred to police departments, other factors -- including various aliases and jurisdictional issues -- can impede their use in future cases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/30).

The law, "if combined with education and counseling," could be an "effective deterrent to the spread" of HIV, the Tribune says, adding that a "lack of proper reporting, record-keeping and adherence" prevents the law from being effective. The editorial says that the "lack of a centralized database" to track HIV-positive sex workers and solicitors "for access by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors across the state" also is "discouraging." Utah courts should "establish a database and assure that the tests are conducted," the editorial says, concluding that the legislation is "a good law, but only if it's followed to the letter" (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/5).

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